Updated: May 29, 2021
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
The offensive tackle position is the biggest question mark and unknown for the Steelers in 2021, as Chuks Okorafor is projected to be the starting left tackle and Zach Banner is slotted to be the starter at right tackle. Banner has just one career start under his belt at right tackle and that was last year against the Giants in Week 1, a game in which Banner, unfortunately, suffered a season-ending ACL tear. As for Okorafor, he struggled at right tackle last season, and many question whether he can hold up at left tackle and protect Ben Roethlisberger's blindside.
Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report recently wrote an article stating that Okorafor and Banner are Steelers players who have the most to prove heading into 2021, along with strong safety Terrell Edmunds.
"Okorafor will be 24 years old when the NFL season starts, so there is still time for him to develop but he'll need to do it fast," Ballentine wrote. "Of the 79 tackles that Pro Football Focus graded last year, he ranked 70th.
"If the Steelers are going to adequately protect their aging quarterback and restore some balance to the offense, the Western Michigan product has to be better."
Banner has tremendous size and is a great fit for new offensive line coach Adrian Klemm's aggressive coaching philosophy. However, the biggest thing with Banner is that he's just an unknown right now, as he hasn't played much in his four-year career.
"The 27-year-old has massive potential," Ballentine wrote of Banner. "He's 6'8" and 360 pounds. He was a fourth-round selection in the 2017 draft but has shown the potential to outplay that draft slot. If he can stay on the field, that is.
"In three seasons, he's only played 302 snaps. Now, he's going to be relied on as a key starting member of the O-line. The Steelers spent a first-round pick on Najee Harris, but the success of Banner and Okorafor will likely be a bigger factor in the success of the offense."
Banner spoke with the media after yesterday's OTAs practice and said Klemm is bringing a blue-collar, no-nonsense approach to the offensive line.
“We call it necessary violence,” Banner said about Klemm’s coaching style via Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. “There is that, not to hurt somebody on purpose, but that thug mentality that we have when we put our helmets on. It is still professional, still structured … when I look at my guys going out of the tunnel, I am looking at them and saying let’s f-ing go and we have that as a coach.”